parking in miami dade county, its effect on the poor, and the silence of leaders

Edit: Commissioner Higgins’s Chief of Staff reached out to tell me that, though Little Havana (where I live) falls within the boundaries of her district (DIST5), Coral Gables does not. She mentioned, additionally, that Miami-Dade County has no say over the price of parking tickets (which kinda falls into the ambit of what this blog post is addressing: the fact that I can’t get in touch with anybody who can tell me how this price hike happened or what a voter can do about it).

As to the inability of a persistent voter trying to reach their commissioner by phone, email, or social media–no comment.


It seems petty, but it’s important to me because I live here: one of the big issues that’s attracted my attention lately is the cost of parking tickets in Miami-Dade County. 

Particularly in Coral Gables. 

I’ve tried to find answers for why the fee of a casual parking ticket was doubled, from $18 to $36, but those answers haven’t been forthcoming. 

Before naming names, let me address the issue:


We were just talking about Gorgonzola, one of the zillion UberEats and Doordash drivers who comes by my restaurant to deliver food, and about the fact that, on a good day, a food courier will earn like $9 an hour. 

That’s a good day.

For the most part, since they’re contract workers, the courier companies are free to pay these workers less than minimum wage ($8.65 in Florida, as of January 1). And so that’s generally what they earn. 

They earn between $7 and $9 an hour.


I work in an affluent neighborhood in Miami called Coral Gables. 

Along the curbs of Coral Gables, or in the garages, you’ll probably pay between $2.50 and $5.00 an hour in parking. The garages will sometimes cap the cost at $18 or thereabouts.

At the restaurant where I work, I earn, in wages, $5 per hour. If I don’t get enough tips to average those hourly earnings up to minimum wage, the company will pay up, and I’ll get minimum wage. 

Let’s say it’s a rainy Tuesday at the restaurant, just a couple people come in, and I end up going home with minimum wage earnings.

After a six hour shift, during which I earn roughly $48, I will have paid almost half of my wages in parking. 

If, in Coral Gables, you stay in your parking space for a longer stretch of time than you paid for, you’ll receive a parking ticket costing $36.

When a food courier, who earns less than minimum wage, has to park their car at the curb, run into the restaurant, collect a meal, and run out to his car again, he’s risking a $36 penalty for not getting there in time. 

And let’s say that, most likely, this courier for Doordash is earning $7 an hour.

If he’s worked for five solid hours, driving and delivering meals and sweating about it and being urgent and punctual, and he happens to park at the curb in front of my restaurant for a minute too long, and he gets a ticket–his entire workday will have been for naught. 

And it happens all the time. 

An elderly food courier recently ambled back into the restaurant, teary-eyed, asking what she could do about the ticket she just got because it literally annihilated all of her earnings for a full day of what amounts to manual labor (you might not think that being a food courier is manual labor, but I’ve done it, and I’ve worked in high-traffic restaurants, and I can assure you: there’s hardly a difference). 

The parking fee is immoral. In saying that some or other district or city or municipality should be ashamed of hosting it, the obvious response will be that its officials have no authority over the price of parking tickets. Somebody, though, must have a say in this. And if it’s a problem that’s effecting people in the community, there oughta be some avenue of rebuttal.

Or, at the very least, an inquiry should be met with an answer, a misconception with a correction.


When I tried reaching out to Kevin J. Kinney, Director of the Coral Gables Parking Department, in an email dated February 26, he didn’t respond. I instead got an email from someone in his office explaining to me that, contrary to what my frustration might suggest, parking tickets in our area have been among the cheapest in a vast space until 2019, when a vote by county commissioners agreed to raise the parking fee from $18 to $36. 

I mentioned that I was occasioned to write the email after receiving, in relatively quick succession, three parking tickets. He then offered to pacify me by forgiving one (he specified: one) of my three tickets.

After several attempts to reach the office of Eileen Higgins, the commissioner for District 5 (where I live), hoping to learn how this price hike happened, and where she stands on it, and whether or not she agrees that it’s a burden to the rich and an attack against the poor, I still have no answer. (To clarify: while the cost of living in Coral Gables is high, its streets are occupied by many more lower-income service workers than residents.) 

I’ve emailed Commissioner Higgins’s office repeatedly, inviting her for a guest appearance on Thousand Movie Project Podcast to discuss the larger political moment and, tangentially, how a person might engage with their local government in order to avoid such things as price hikes; I’ve called her office twice, and on both occasions was told, by the person answering phones, that she (the person answering the phones) would “do research” on the matter of parking fees, and get back to me; when these proved dead ends I tried, more recently, to engage Commissioner Higgins via Instagram DM, dated April 20. 

She left me on read.

The likelihood of getting in touch with anyone in a position of local authority who will take accountability for the price hike in parking tickets and offer, as explanation as to why the money garnered from parking tickets is so critically important as to warrant the routine financial hobbling of poverty-wage workers in Miami-Dade County–well, the likelihood of such a response is obviously small. 

Probably impossible. 

But even in lowering my sights from the frustrations of national politics, against which the average voter is of course gonna feel totally impotent and helpless, I’m genuinely surprised to learn that even a glancing survey of one’s neighborhood authorities will turn up the same sort of evasion, indifference, and bloodletting of the poor that characterizes the national scene. 

I guess the pain of such realizations is just, as an athlete might put it, naivete leaving the body.

3 comments

  • I used to watch your youtube videos and I periodically dropped by this site to read your posts. What I found most fascinating about your posts are just the glimpse of normal life in a country I’ve never visited before in my life. I grew up in a third world country in South East Asia, and America in my mind as a child is filled with rich people that can afford everything, can afford cars (I grew up middle class so I have a car but lots of people here didn’t), can afford holiday overseas. As I grew older, I’ve had several opportunities to live abroad (l lived in europe for several years and in japan) and saw how other people lived, but the friends I’ve had there are mostly from the same background (in europe: people in my graduate class with middle & upper class background, in japan: 9 to 5 managerial office workers)

    Your posts paints a real picture I think of life in America for the working class that shattered my idealistic views of Americans being this super power and super rich people. I remember in one of your post you talked about how you’ve never been abroad and that really shocked me because I thought that all americans have the money to go abroad as you don’t need to apply for visa and show them our bank accounts like we needed to in a third world country. It costs so much to go abroad here that even though I said I went abroad several times they’re all paid by someone else (full government scholarship for graduate school in europe, transferred by my company to the japan branch)

    It’s fascinating how I can see a glimpse of how other normal people in the world lives through your posts, especially for this post as you mentioned Coral Gables. Before reading this, I knew about Coral Gables mainly through a video game I played several years ago called A Golden Wake, which is set in Coral Gables during the 1920’s real estate boom. I learned entirely too many facts about this small city that I’ve never heard before in my life before playing the game, and it’s funny that it pops up again now, through your post.

    Lastly I just want to say, if you enjoy writing, keep writing. It might feel like no one is listening sometimes, but I guarantee there will be someone like me who lives halfway across the world from you, reading your posts and gaining valuable insights from them.

    Like

    • I remember the username! And I’m flattered, first of all, to think that my stuff would’ve generated such a thorough and heartfelt response, thank you so much for taking the time to say all of that! I’m interested to know that the US has generated that sort of impression of itself, and of its people; I’m currently reading a biography of Henry Kissinger, a major American statesman, and as I’m learning how he thought of world affairs, and how he manipulated international relations, it makes me think that, by spreading that image of widespread American wealth and prosperity, it would discourage the rest of the world from taking so critical and judgmental a stance of us as we of do of them. 

      In your news, growing up, were you ever privy to stories of American violence? Forgive me if I’m prying into your age but, as I was a kid and teenager, we were just entering the age of mass shootings at high schools and churches and movie theaters and malls. Just from civilians who stockpiled weapons and then went crazy. I know that European countries are well aware of it and mock us about it (rightly so). Did that stuff cross your radar?

      I’m sorry to hear it costs so much to go abroad where you are. I wonder if it rivals the cost of travel for someone in a tough financial situation over here. How about health care? I know the big fear of folks in my neighborhood is that they’ll get pneumonia, or step on something sharp, and then have to go to the hospital for a procedure that costs them a month’s or year’s salary. Even a ride in an ambulance costs several thousands of dollars. 

      And thank you, most of all, for the encouragement. I try not to look too hard at the traffic numbers for this site except to compete with myself, occasionally setting a goal to make this or that month the busiest of the busiest of the year, more visitors than ever. But it’s heartening to know that you’re reading along–as with the handful of other readers and listeners who’ve gotten in touch via instagram and become friends.

      Like

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